The timetables available from the ‘Link’ below on this page will be a pdf which you can just browse,or download to your computer if you wish.The ‘links’ within the page are active, so you can click on them to access the chosen website.When you click the’Link’ below it will open in a separate window!
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We have three main sources of information about upcoming steam-hauled mainline trains:
- Railway Herald Railtours – RH is a paid-for on-line weekly magazine for rail enthusiasts. Its accompanying web-site provides other free services including a schedule of passenger specials, either hauled by steam or by modern traction. I produce a quarterly extract of local services from this Railtours page. With this as a guide you can access the info directly at http://railwayherald.com/railtours to get the latest updates. Nearer to the date of departure RH Railtours may also provide access to a Timing Sheet (from RTT – see below) for a special train with route details and planned arrival/departure/passing times. Note the emphasis on planned – as we all know plans often go awry!
- Realtime Trains (RTT) – this is also an independent enterprise which feeds off the data Network Rail is obliged to make available to other companies providing data services. The scope is much wider than just steam railway specials, covering virtually every train, passenger or freight, which is due to run on the national network. The feeds of data include the Working Timetable (WTT) – the master plan for the network – and planned variations (VAR) thereof due to engineering work, bank holidays etc. Specials of interest to us are coded as STP (short term plan) items due to their ad-hoc nature.
Each entry in the RTT schedule contains a Timing Sheet which details not only the planned itinerary, but also actual progress on the day of operation with passing times for significant waypoints. So if we have access to the Timing Sheet, either from RH Railtours, from my Reminder in the Upcomings section, or by a detailed search in RTT itself, we can plan where we want to see a special train and get a good idea of when it will arrive at our chosen location.
(If it is necessary to carry out your own detailed search, use the link RTT Advanced Search for Short Term Plan trains – the options set by the link retrieve all ‘specials’ (STP) going through Newbury on 2nd Feb 2017 (the day of writing this). In practice you will be looking for a train on a future date, so enter that date on the form and resubmit. You are now looking for an entry which is going from and to the start and end points of the steam excursion. The link you need is found in the ID column and usually takes the data format of 1Zxx – like the headcodes that steam special used to carry in steam days.
“Newbury” should find any steam trains expected on our line – don’t use “Hungerford” since we are not guaranteed to appear on an itinerary explicitly. For trains across the vale of White Horse use “Uffington” and “Andover” for the Salisbury line.)
- Open Train Times (OTT) – for on-the-day progress we now have another option in the form of a railway ‘radar’. OTT – “http://www.opentraintimes.com/maps” Live Track Diagrams gives us access to signaller’s diagrams of selected parts of the railway network, showing track occupancy for each section in the form of a train identifier entered in a rectangular box. You can see the progress of your 1Zxx steam special by finding its code in one of the rectangles, hopefully at about the expected time, and watching as the code progresses along the track, hopefully towards where you are waiting. OTT updates itself as the data is received from the railway signals, unlike RTT which has to be refreshed by the user.
You can explore the list of diagrams (which is expanding as more routes are supported), or our line be accessed directly from OTT – Berks & Hants “http://www.opentraintimes.com/maps/signalling/berksandhants” and the line across the Vale of White Horse by OTT – GWR mainline Didcot -Swindon” http://www.opentraintimes.com/maps/signalling/swindon“. So no excuse for missing a train which is running early or for waiting around trackside for a train which did not run, or went by a different route!